Toward the end of our stay in Florida, Elise had booked several family sessions and for a few afternoons in a row was having to work. The kids and I fell into the habit of heading down to the beach on these afternoons. We had no plans to swim or do anything other than wander up and down the sand, and we were able to spend a few very peaceful evenings as the sun set. Several hours on the beach went by much easier than if they had stayed stuffed in the condo. One would think that would go without saying, but sometimes the most obvious solutions are also the most elusive. The kids scattered in three different directions back at the rocks from which they were nearly washed out to sea on those first upside down days. Sam stood for hours on the rocks, staring out over the ocean, watching the waves crash against the rocks. Peter loitered nearby, peeking into the shallow pools carved into the rocks, and Clementine camped out on the dune, entertaining herself endlessly with an internal monologue the nature of which I could only begin to guess.
On our last night in Florida, we broke camp in the condo and--because we were leaving for the airport at 4 a.m.--stayed at my mom's. Elise had her final family portrait session, and I scurried the kids out of the house with promises of frozen yogurt so my mom could enjoy some much needed peace and quiet. We walked to the nearby strip center only to find that the frozen yogurt place had closed. It was nearly five and another of our favorite restaurants which just happened to be next door, Leftovers, had just opened. As former restaurant workers, Elise and I are easy to please yet pretty particular when it comes to eating out. Leftovers is one of those few restaurants where I would not change a thing (except maybe get rid of the TVs. I'm still not exactly sure why every restaurant in the States has to have a TV in it. I come from the school of thought that TV distracts from the ambiance, rather than contributes to it. I understand there are those evenings when a TV is requisite...like Super Bowl Sunday or during the State of the Union address.in those cases, a TV should be wheeled out on a cart).
I brought the kids and sat them up at the bar. After much negotiation, we finally ordered a banana egg roll (with peanut butter and Nutella) and a slice of S'mores pie. I may have ordered a beer. But the lack of nap finally caught up to Clementine, and I spent most of the time there trying to keep her from crying because of the peanut butter. Best laid plans.
As we were walking back to my mom's house, twilight hit--as it does in the winter--like a freight train, but as we came upon a group of neighborhood kids playing soccer, we felt ourselves drifting in their direction, thanks to Sam. Without hesitation (okay, maybe there was one quick backward glance), he insinuated himself into their game seamlessly. I am impressed and proud of his ability to quickly and confidently make new friends. But Pete does not yet have the same confidence. He wanted to play, but lacks Sam's natural deftness with a soccer ball and fearlessness. He's more shy and after two false starts, decided it wasn't his day to play. I was torn between advocating on his behalf, asking the kids if Pete, too, could join their game, and wanting him to forge his own path, weighing the merits of both courses of action on his future confidence. Doubtlessly, whatever I decided to do would not adversely affect him for the rest of his formative years, but I felt on some level that this was a step he needed to take for himself because it was something he was going to have to do many times moving forward, but if he did it and I helped him, would he even remember I was there if he recalled the incident?
In the end, he and Clem foot raced from tree to tree in the dark. It was Sam's day. Pete's will come. The next morning we would all rise at 4;00 a.m. to catch a flight to the Big D en route to the PNW.